Durant entered the world of sales right out of college, and while he loved what he did, he wasn't always comfortable at work. “I definitely felt that in order to fit in or position myself for advancement that I had to adjust how much I showed of my authentic self,” he recalls. “Doing so is taxing, to say the least.” So when he left his former employer, Durant promised himself that he would always bring his true self to work and remember the value of his worth.
Today, Durant is a vice president of sales at KnowBe4 - an organization that provides security awareness training - where employees are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work without consequence. “Here, the environment allows my mindset to thrive,” he says. “I'm young, Black, and a VP at one of the fastest-growing organizations in the country. My opinions and experiences are unique and that matters.”
Here, he shares more about his role at KnowBe4, how he earned his promotions, and advice for BIPOC and people from other marginalized groups on how to embrace their identities at work.
Tell us about your career journey and what led you to your job at KnowBe4.
My first job out of college was in sales with an S&P 500 company that focused on IT research. As an account manager, I sold and managed small to midsize customers. During my time there I learned a lot about sales techniques, and how to connect IT initiatives to the overall company objectives and bottom lines. While the experience was very valuable, I decided to move on for numerous reasons primarily because of market saturation, culture, and location. KnowBe4 almost seemed too good to be true on paper, but after visiting the office in 2017 I felt that it was a good fit culturally and financially. The rest is history!
What attracted you to work at KnowBe4?
Honestly speaking, I was drawn to the financial upside at first. The culture was a plus because I got the feeling early on that this is a results-driven company. No fluff, simply deliver the goods and you'll be rewarded. Having a relaxed dress code and full transparency makes focusing on your job simple because you don't have to deal with unnecessary distractions.
What are you responsible for in your role?
I spearhead the KnowBe4 GRC tool's sales efforts. The KnowBe4 GRC tool is the sister product to our primary tool, which is the KnowBe4 Security Awareness Training and Simulated Phishing. I like to call it the startup within the startup because we are building something from the ground up!
What was it like not being able to bring your authentic self to work in previous roles?
It was a constant chess match of identifying what is showing too much versus not showing enough. There were times when I didn't talk much in an attempt to let my work speak for me. However, once I realized the value of me as an individual in conjunction with my results, it was clear I had to peel back some layers.
When you were hired by KnowBe4, what was your approach to being your authentic self?
The promise I made myself coming into KnowBe4 was that I was going to be myself, no matter what. I knew what I could bring to the table as a sales rep and it was proven through my sales results in my previous role. However, the aspect that I didn't discover was the positive impact my Blackness and charisma would have on my organization and colleagues.
What's an experience you've had at KnowBe4 that shows how the company encourages employees to be their true selves at work?
I immediately recollect the open-door access to those in the C-suite. I speak with many of the highest-ranking people at KnowBe4 on a very regular basis. In those conversations the only thing that matters are results. The expectation is to be professional and knowledgeable nothing more, nothing less.
You've been promoted three times since joining KnowBe4. How does the company help employees grow their careers?
My experience is that your results and the personal brand you develop are the only things that matter at KnowBe4. When I made my intentions of moving into management clear to my superiors, the ball started rolling because of the following: First, my results exceeded expectations and matched my desires. Second, I proved that I could be an asset at scale through team meetings and helping others. Finally, the company is growing at a rate where opportunities are available. Ultimately KnowBe4 is a place right now where people craft their own path.
What is your advice for BIPOC and people from other marginalized groups on what to do if they work at a company where they don't feel accepted?
Know your worth. At the end of the day, you and the company you choose to provide your skillset to are in a relationship. If you decide to engage in a relationship where you can't be yourself every day, that is a toxic relationship. So you should do what your friends would recommend if this were a romantic relationship: Request changes or end it. If after everything that's occurred in the past year alone, a company is unwilling or unable to make those who are of the minority be and feel welcome, then their view of your worth doesn't match how you (should) view yourself.
What is your advice for people on how to be their true selves at work, especially when starting a new job?
Be you from day one. If you set the expectations on the front end that not only are you qualified for the role, but also that you are very clear about who you are, this can only benefit you. Too often I talk to friends and family who try to put on a facade in order to "get their foot into the door."
There is a difference between being professional and conforming. I feel that the two are blended far too often. I've chosen to package my Blackness as something that the majority can't emulate. To me, there's a certain swagger or certain cultural “it” that comes with being Black. I take pride in being able to lead conversations with some of the most successful people in our industry without sacrificing who I am along the way or in those conversations.
Also, change your mindset from “How do I fit in?” to “How do I use the aspects of myself that don't fit in and turn them into my advantage?” And when that imposter syndrome creeps its ugly little head up, that's when you have to reflect on what you've accomplished and how you did it, and rely on your village to help keep you going.